I’m working on a new piece. It’s slow going because I’m afraid to write it, for many reasons. One reason is that I’m struggling with confidence lately. I had to go back, six years back to get an excerpt from an article I want to include. I was horrified by what I read; I was a shitty writer back then.
It reminded me of a slippery chick poking its beak through the gooey membrane. My work was like that: in limbo between fetus and bird, between conception and life.
I sensed there was something eloquent behind my sophomoric prose, but it was poorly written. I sent an email to my editor asking if I could take it down.
She said no.
I was frustrated with her response, but relieved. It’s for my own good, because, if I erased it, I’d be denying the entire purpose of why I write.
My job as a writer is not to write the next best selling novel; I’ll leave that to the pros. My job is to write about the things inside the shell, that no one wants to expose or express. I do what I do so others can curl up on their couch, alone and feel less alone as they read.
I hope the tapestry of my work is a testament to diligent practice and what occurs when you keep doing what you love.
To me, writing is like sweating or sneezing: there’s something squirming inside that is trying to break free, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it from expelling, it just comes out. And, eventually, if I keep letting it out, something splits wide open and becomes real: syntax snuggles the thoughts into coherence, translatable in most minds and hearts, and the words are punctuated in just the right way, so you have time to take a breath and reflect, if you choose.
I don’t recall ever saying to myself that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I just loved how it felt: a reprieve from loneliness and relief from the ache. The pain escapes from my synapses and transforms into a chrysalis of euphoria; time stops; I forget to breathe; am I breathing? It’s the passion that keeps me alive. Completing a thought, tying a poem together with that last word, it’s better than an orgasm and more delicious than coffee flavored gelato. It’s what I often idle on the outside of: life.
When I write, I’m in it, with you. I feel connected before I hit publish. I feel connected because once it’s written, it’s real, it’s received; it’s no longer invisible and embryonic.
It’s something. I’m something.
This is my lifeline; without it I’m lost. Truly. I bumble around for meaning most of the time. I feel numb if I don’t write.
I didn’t realize embarrassment and pride could coexist, but they do. I am mortified of my past work, and yet, I am proud of how much I’ve progressed. I want to show that to you: what we’re all capable of when we put our hearts into something.
I’m teaching myself how to write. Although, I’m accompanied in my education: surrounded by the grammar book my dad got me, and the eccentric thesaurus that caught my eye at the bookstore. The Google search bar is ready and waiting for questions a nine year old would ask: is there a comma here or there? When do I use a semi-colon?
Sometimes, I ask for help from some adjunct professors: Montaigne, Bukowski and Dickinson. They punctuated their lives with their own set of rules. I admire that. That’s why I trust them. That’s why I enjoy learning from them.
I’ve yet to give up. I’ve yet to give in to the compliments and the criticisms. I just keep going. There must be something to that. I don’t think I chose it, I believe it chose me: this love.
I think there’s a love that curls in the womb of our destiny, and it starts tapping at our walls when it’s ready, usually before we’re ready for it.
That’s how it happened for me. It broke me in half. I remember the night it all started. It was the night I decided I needed to ask for a divorce. I was writing a letter, a love letter. It was to a life that was beckoning outside of the darkness. As I sat at 3AM, legs folded under, my flesh supporting the pages, I finally poked through and I could see. That was the beginning of the end, of an unknown identity.
Maybe every piece is a draft of the whole. Each paragraph, each article is the editor of immaturity and the guide to wisdom.
I don’t know what the final piece will be and I don’t care to know. It is the process that I love the most: the learning, the trial and error, the shit pieces mixed with the exceptional ones. They all share the same thread: the feeling.
I remember how I felt when I finished that piece that shook my confidence the other day. I remember how it felt to release it into the world. I felt free. I wrote what was in my heart, what was true at the time. And we all know what the truth does…
“Give me something pressed from truth, and I’ll call that poetry.” ~Emily Dickinson, I believe.